Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's With All the PAPER?!?!?!?!?!?

OK - I think I'm turning into my mother - the woman had paper all over the house, and now I have stacks of paper all over my office . . . Where is all this paper coming from???

I mean - REALLY - I have just spent the last TWO HOURS trying to actually find the (insert your curse word of choice) cushions on the sofa in my office, and now that I'm down to just stuff (as opposed to paper) left on the cushions, I now have piles of paper all over the FLOOR.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph - I'm in some Kafka-esque nightmare of paper.

It's ridiculous - I don't understand how I could be so completely disorganized. I cannot understand how there could be this many pieces of paper on one sofa - Oh, let's be real - all over the HOUSE.

I swear that they are mating and making more paper.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Adventures in Spinning - Part III

When last we left our heroine (me!), she had just spun her beginner's skein.

OK - I don't like writing about myself in the third person . . . :-D

After I arrived home from The Fold, I started spinning. If you are an accomplished, experienced spinner, I invite you think back to your first lesson - to the excitement you felt knowing that you were learning a skill that has existed for centuries.

It's SO EXCITING to have that fiber in your hands and watch as it, literally, becomes functional (albeit a little lumpy) yarn through your fingers. I am fascinated by this - and by the fact that I am doing it!

Here is a photo of my second effort taken in natural light (on an overcast day) out on my deck. This is the New Zealand wool that came with my wheel - It was also the fiber from which my beginner skein was spun. I had no idea I would get this much yardage out of that bag of fiber - I didn't get anywhere near this much in the skeins of Lincoln that I made.

To my surprise, once I pulled this off the niddy noddy and counted the wraps, I have 800 yards here. ====:-O (that's me, with my hair standing on end).

I keep thinking about the differences between 2-ply and 3-ply, always with an eye toward my Iona wool and an Aran sweater. I was interested to discover that the Black Water Abbey yarns are 2-ply. So, this time, I decided to spin all the fiber and go with 2-ply. It was much different than spinning the Lincoln (my first effort) and, as mentioned I I got a lot more usable yardage. I clearly still have some lumpy areas, but, by and large, I was able to get these singles more consistently even. I think my skills are improving, and I'm thinking that if I slow down a little more, my fingers will have more time to draft the slubs and pick out the bits of vegetable matter more efficiently. This yarn is not quite worsted weight (well, it is in spots ;-) ), but more like tubby DK.

I believe that skills can be learned, but art comes from the soul. Many can learn to play the piano and be technically proficient, but you know the difference when you hear an artist play. I believe we each have our own art and it's up to us to find out what that means for ourselves - for some it's painting or drawing, for others, it's the written word, and others, music. For some it's knitting, crocheting, spinning - and for yet others, it's raising a family, making a home, cooking - It can be one thing or many. It's a beautiful circle - Our art is what we create from our souls out of love. Making our art feeds our souls, which in turn - well, you get the picture :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Seasons Change

Funny to be thinking about this now, but as I was riding home on the train tonight, there were lights on on the roof of a factory that train passes on the way home. I was on my regular train - not late - that means that the days are clearly getting shorter and summer's dog days are drawing to a close. We are closer to September than July.

I don't wish for these days to be over - just as I don't wish for the week to hurry by on a Monday morning - I don't like to wish away my days . . . that's time that you never get back. No, I don't wish these days to go more quickly- but I have to admit that I will be happy when it is a little less humid. It's been just brutal the past couple of weeks.

Buy stock in Johnson & Johnson - baby powder use has hit an all-time high in the Midwest.

On another note - Linda's chickens have come home to roost! Literally :-D Her three new chickens arrived today! I'm going to have to over and see them. They don't have official names yet, but I'm rooting for Chicky-Loo for one of them :-D My cousins had a cat named Kitty-Loo for years, and I used to have a cat named Bucky, who was more often than not called Bucky-Roo :-)

And a final note - one of the things I was most excited about getting at Stitches didn't actually get into the photo. There is this sweater . . . isn't that how it always starts? Well, there is this sweater that I saw online sometime ago in my search for the perfect Aran sweater to knit with my Iona wool, and it stayed in my head . . . and as I walked into the Black Water Abbey booth at Stitches, there it was!!! It's called Celtic Dreams, and was designed by Beth Brown-Reinsel and it's way beautiful.

I think it might be the winner :-)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Stitches Midwest!

What a great day! For the third year in a row, Linda and I went to Stitches Midwest. Three years ago, Linda mentioned it to me - quite tentatively . . . "I know you're not really knitting anymore . . . but there is this yarn market . . . and you probably don't want to go . . . but I thought I would check with you . . ." To her surprise, I said something along the lines of, "Yes, I'd like to go, that sounds like big fun." So, off we went. True, I hadn't been knitting for some time. I had been living in Southern California, and, let's face it, who wants to sit around with a pile of wool on your lap, when the temps are in the three figures, knitting a sweater you're never going to wear because it's NEVER COLD there?!

Anyway - we went, and I came home with yarn for three projects - NONE of which were actually made. I used some of the yarn, but not for what it was intended, and some of it I didn't use for a year - it took me a little while to get back in the swing of things, which I clearly have ;-) Probably the most exciting thing I got that first year was the Bloomsbury Jacket from Cheryl Oberle. I didn't start it for nearly a year - it was well worth the wait. Anyway - I digress.

We arrived there this morning shortly after the market opened and figured out our plan of action. It can get quite crowded on Saturday. There were a couple of times when I needed to step out of a particularly crowded booth, but, on the whole, it was, as it has been in years past, BIG FUN! Interestingly enough, this year, there was some sort of Wizards gaming/comic book convention in the downstairs hall at the convention center - made for a very odd mix of people walking through the parking lot, that's for sure :-D

This year I actually made a list, and come home with pretty much everything on it! There's a stash of sock yarn there - mostly self-striping (which I think is just great!), but also two skeins of Acero from Brooks Farm Yarn. Brooks Farm Yarn is one of my favorite places to shop at Stitches. They have the most wonderful 100% kid mohair, called Primero - I have made a lot us things out of it. This year, since they were also at the Fiber Fair in Crystal Lake, I had already done a substantial amount of damage to my pocketbook at their booth, but I did get enough Acero to make two pairs of socks to try it out. You can see it in the photo - it's the blue skein that's resting on Cat Bordhi's new sock book!!! The second skein is the dark rose, also resting on the book, but covered by the Louet Euroflax, which I have been looking for for at least a year, after having read about it in Knitter's Stash. ::::: stepping onto soapbox::::: Ahem . . . I've just given you a link to Amazon.com so you can see this book, but I hope that you will consider buying your books at your local bookseller or yarn store - after all, if we don't patronize our local merchants, pretty soon we won't have any . . . ::::stepping off soapbox::::

The new Knitter's Travel Guide is there, that large blue blob is the aforementioned Primero, and the champagne colored shiny stuff in the plastic bag, is 8 oz of 50/50 cashmere/silk top. Oh, it's so soft I can hardly stand it! There is also a nostepinne there in the middle, and braid of roving that Linda gave me today (another bit of her fiber stash that she acquired when she thought she would be spinning). Thank you, Linda!

The only thing not in the photo that I got was a wonderful, handmade basket with a wooden divider in it - perfect for keeping yarn and needles in one place in my sunroom :-)

I also signed up for a class this year - "How to Teach How to Knit." I have taught a number of people how to knit and am currently working with some of the "church ladies" and teaching some of them how to knit to be able to make prayer shawls, but I thought I could pick up some tips. It was only an hour class, and it went very quickly. The class was taught by Beth Whiteside, of See Jane Knit, and I enjoyed it very much - I discovered that I have been intuitively doing some of what Beth advocates as teaching methods, but I certainly learned some new things. Let's hope I can put some of what I learned to good use. :-)

We actually left this year before they shut off the lights and tossed us out. We made our way to the car and headed home - with a stop off for ice cream. This is actually pretty funny, because neither of us really like ice cream all that much. We saw soft-serve at Stitches and thought about it all afternoon - we were destined for dairy! I headed home not too long after.

Like I said earlier, what a great day!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Endings and Beginnings

Earlier this week I learned that a friend of mine who lived in South Africa had passed away. Her name was Joan Halford - she was an author and expert grower of African violets. Her book, Growing African Violets in Southern Africa, is an excellent reference, written in a wonderfully conversational style. If you can get a copy of it, I highly recommend it - you don't have to live in South Africa to benefit from her knowledge. It's a wonderful book no matter where you live.
I had the great good fortune to meet her in person a couple of years ago during the luncheon auction at the African Violet Society of America's annual convention. We discovered we shared a great love of the written word. I was bidding on books and when I won one of hers at the auction, she autographed it for me. You don't often meet someone so talented who is also charming and gracious. We became friends and stayed in loose touch online. Last year as she was moving to a smaller home, she was downsizing her collection of books about African violets . . . and she sent them all to me because she remembered how much I love books.

Oh, it was like Christmas the day the package arrived! So many books, many of which I had never seen before because they were not published in the United States. I treasure them, as I treasure the memory of an April afternoon with a new friend, spent talking about books and enjoying the auction.

I've discovered I often think of those who have gone on before us as stars in the heavens. When my mom passed away a few years ago, one of my dearest friends sent me a card that still hangs on the bulletin board in my kitchen. It says, "Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones shines down to let us know they are with us." Joan, you will be missed . . . I hope you know how bright your light shone when you were here. It's comforting to me to think that it still shines on me through the opening in Heaven that belongs to you.